By Dan Coleman

Every business and business owner is unique, a snowflake, if you will. Fortunately, all entrepreneurs and early stage businesses follow patterns. These patterns make it easy for a business growth and leadership coach like me to diagnose problems, predict fallouts and suggest a change in course before you (and your bottom line) suffer heavy consequences.

One. Setting weak goals, often unclear and limited by the past. 

Goals should pull and propel you into the future. And it’s your future that should dictate how you behave today. Too many entrepreneurs get stuck in their past and remain attached to old business models, old solutions, and old areas of expertise. As we’ve already established, change is a must for all business owners. Get specific on what you want life to look like in three, five, ten years. Then, create a plan for the present and immediate future that will help get you there.

What this looks like in real life:

Joe became a seven-figure business owner by helping companies transition to remote work at the start of covid. He had telecommunication technology that put him ahead of the curve at the time. Joe had the right solution and the right contacts at the right time. Today, less companies need help managing a workplace transition. Companies either have already made the transition or they were founded as remote-first workplaces. Joe has two options. He can cling to his previous victory and continue pounding the pavement toward a market that has left him behind. OR, he can adapt and imagine a new future. Joe’s solution is no longer relevant to his contacts, but that doesn’t mean Joe’s expertise or team are irrelevant.

How to overcome it:

Recognizing his situation, Joe decides to break up with his old business model. Within the next eighteen months, Joe wants to be the go-to guy anytime a company needs advice on streamlining workplace solutions. He commits to having a first draft of a new business offering within 30 days.

Two. Becoming creatures of aggressive habit. 

Many times, we as entrepreneurs become a hammer looking for a nail. We fall into the trap of pounding nails all day long. Why? Because hammering is what we do. I call this the entrepreneurial virus. Being a hammer is only beneficial when there’s an impactful nail that really needs hammering. Otherwise, you’re just creating a lot of noise, wasting energy and possibly creating holes, as you wack things that maybe only needed a gentle tap.

Just because you can be doing some tasks or some projects doesn’t mean you should be doing them. For lingering tasks that need to get done, challenge yourself to simplify, eliminate, or automate them. If all else fails, and you shouldn’t be doing it, figure out how to delegate it to somebody else.

What this looks like in real life:

Larry is the CEO of a startup. He came up with a new product that he wants his team to roll out. On day one of the idea, Larry locks himself up in his office and builds a new website to showcase the offering. At the end of the week, Larry has a mediocre website for a product that doesn’t exist, because he was busy with work that should have allocated as part of a greater business strategy, when he should have conferencing closely with his team leaders.

How to overcome this:

Larry could have avoided this situation with simple me, now logic. Does this need to be done by me? (If no, stop. If yes, proceed to question two.) Does this need to be done by me now? When asked ahead of time, business owners can avoid wasting time and energy on tasks that don’t serve the greater purpose.

Three. Spending 80% of their time chasing 20% of results. 

Business isn’t always a race against competitors, but it is a race against the time that you’ll never get back. There are only so many hours in a day – 24 to be precise – and you’ll likely be asleep for some of them. So rather than toiling away to earn and deliver business with minimal margins, focus your time on the 20% of work that will earn you 80% of the results. This distinction is what separates successful entrepreneurs from everyone else. Give yourself the advantage of being laser focused on your most important work.

What this looks like in a business:

Jeff’s company landed a major client deal – $1.2 million to be completed over six months. These next two quarters will yield the highest gross income for his company to date. However, this specific deal has massive operational costs. Between the 10% sales commission, operations and facilities costs, the deal only yields 20% profit. But, the profit margin itself isn’t even the biggest issue; Jeff’s team is now tied up for the next six months, preventing him from taking on more profitable deals. 

How to overcome it:

If Jeff ran his projections ahead of time and urged his team to chase specific types of accounts, rather than big price tags, he could have avoided this situation. He could have stopped his sales person from offering these terms or he could have modified the scope up front to reduce the weight on his operations.

Four. Not obsessing over your People.

I get asked this all the time. What’s the one common denominator all my most successful clients share? At this point in the game, it’s an easy answer for me. The most successful business owners focus on the right people in the right seats. There’s a great book called Who Not How by Dan Sullivan and Benjamin Hardy that speaks to the idea that entrepreneurs should focus more on the who to get things done, rather than the how.

What this looks like in real life:

Kathy posted a job for a senior leadership position. The job description contains twenty bullet points of information about the job function, three lines of requirements for candidate background and a brief history of the company. As result, Kathy has plenty of candidates who may be extremely qualified for the position, but there’s no process set up to filter who is actually a good qualitative fit for the role.

How to overcome it:

Your job descriptions shouldn’t only be about the role, but rather about the dream/ideal person to fulfill it. Likewise, your company culture ought to prioritize personnel development just as much as productivity.

Did you find yourself identifying with one (or all) of these mistakes? Good. That means you too can take more conscious control of your business and lean into the strategies that actually work. The first step to unlocking your potential, crystallizing your vision, and setting the foundations for your business to thrive is deciding you want to do it.

Strategic Business Guide and Leadership Team Coach, Certified Pinnacle Guide & Former Top EOS Expert Implementor

Having worked for two decades as a founder, CEO, investor, and coach, Dan has established a proven process for effectively implementing tools and frameworks that have transformed thousands of companies before you. His trusted clients often refer to me as a strategist, facilitator, and even chief planning officer – but I’ve settled on coach, and sometimes professional “pain in the rear-end.” My role is to champion the superstars on your team and assist in developing and maintaining a culture of accountability.